Sarah and I traveled to the Congo this summer where we were involved in running youth training seminars and connecting with church and youth leaders to try and get them thinking about youth issues, Christian camping and developing youth ministry training. This is my first visit to the Congo (my wife grew up there) and we are trying to work out ways in which we can encourage training for youth leaders in a country where it doesn’t really exist.
The Congo is not unusual—in many countries in Africa the idea of a formalized or structured youth leaders training doesn’t exist. Most youth leaders just do what they have seen done by others and they follow the patterns and styles of what they know. What this means is that youth ministry in many countries is stuck and young people are drifting away from the church because youth ministry is irrelevant to them.
Some of the issues youth leaders are facing in the majority world (like Congo) are:
- People are not seen as important until they reach age 30
- Young people are not recognized as a separate culture
- Churches and Bible colleges do not have the material or people to teach and equip youth leaders and pastors
- Lack of material, equipment and resources for youth ministries
- Lack of support and recognition of the importance of youth ministry by pastors and church leaders
- Youth culture is functioning in the year 2000 while most churches are still functioning in a 1960’s model
- Youth leaders know that youth ministry in churches is not cutting it but they often lack the training, skills and freedom from church leaders to change the situation
- Youth leaders do not have people to mentor and train them in doing youth ministry and so they can easily get lost and discouraged in what they are trying to do.
Sarah and I are passionate about helping churches in Africa uncover the realities of youth ministry and to be able to connect into the spiritual and practical needs of young people so that the church of Jesus Christ may become so real and meaningful in their lives. I believe that this loss of meaningful youth ministry in churches in the majority world is starting to cause churches in these countries to lose their place and effectiveness in society.
There was such a large desire by many in the Congo who want to reach out to young people and to provide relevant youth ministry to young people inside and outside the church community. The thing that they lack is good training on understanding youth culture and leading youth ministry.
In the Congo there is no denomination or organization that provides consistent youth leadership training. Occasionally a group might run a seminar but there is nothing consistent where youth leaders can start to really grasp the basics of leading a youth ministry. The Congo is not alone in Africa—I am not aware of many countries in Africa where there is structured training in youth ministry. Many of the youth leaders we came in contact with around Congo are looking for ways in which they can even learn the basics of youth ministry. They can see the possibility of what could be, but for many of them this reality is far away because they do not have a way to learn and grow in developing and running effective youth ministry.
I came away from Congo even more committed to work out ways in which structured youth ministry training can be provided in countries where it doesn’t exist, countries from the majority world, countries where they do not have the same access to resources, countries where you do not have a place in society until you are thirty years old. I am also more fired up to continue leading our youth here in the USA to become better disciples of Jesus Christ.
On Friday we leave from Battle Ground Bible Church with 16 team members for the Dominican Republic. We are gearing up for a stretching 10 days of ministry. Here is my prayer for our trip…
may Your name would be glorified in the Dominican Republic.
may You protect us and keep us safe as we fly, bus, and walk.
may Your strength empower us as we enter a world unknown.
may You open the floodgates for you glory to shine through us.
may You use us as lights of your Sons grace.
may our love be Your love.
may our team be One.
may our hands touch minister to Your orphans, may your love flow through us.
may You spiritual nourish the people we feed in the sugar cane villages.
may you spiritual heal those we seek to nurse.
may souls be redeemed through our drama “Tired”.
may You be the center of our worship.
“I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages – villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in this world.” (Robert Moffat who inspired David Livingstone).
In 1816, Robert Moffat was sent out to South Africa and his fiance Mary Smith followed him 3 years later. After spending a year in Namaqualand, with the chief Afrikaner, whom he converted, Moffat returned to Cape Town in 1819 to marry Mary Smith. She proved to be a remarkable woman and most helpful wife.
In 1820 Moffat and his wife, left the Cape. They had a daughter, Mary Moffat (who was later to marry David Livingstone).
The saying above has inspired many missionaries to take the gospel to unreached people over the years. Today it has become increasingly easy communications and transportation, but Coca-cola seems to have done a better job at making itself known worldwide than the gospel. I HAVE SEEN, MANY TIMES, THE HOUSE LIGHTS OF MANY HOMES AND CITIES–WITHOUT A MISSIONARY OR VOICE TO SHOW THEM THE WAY TO CHRIST.
“We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only one short hour before sunset in which to win them.” – Robert Moffat
I love Africa. You know you love something when you think about it a lot and want to be there. There is something contagious about the land, the people and the culture. It takes you back to a simpler time when family matters and where wealth is unimportant.
I presume Dr. David Livingstone had this same heart for this beautiful continent.
At the end of 1840, at the age of 27, supported by the London Missionary Society, Livingstone set sail for Africa. On arrival in Cape Town on March 14th 1841, Livingstone made his way by ox-wagon to Dr Moffat’s mission station at Kuruman. While Moffat confined his work to the region around Kuruman, Livingstone felt called to venture north into the unexplored terrain of Central Africa. Isolating himself for several months in a native village many miles from Kuruman, Livingstone sought to speed up his comprehension of the language and customs of the Africans.
He became a doctor and a missionary, and devoted a great amount of his life to exploring Africa and spreading the gospel. Livingstone was one of the first Europeans to explore the central and southern parts of Africa. He determined that the best way to tell the Africans about Jesus Christ was to move around and see as many people as he could.
He married Dr Moffat’s daughter, Mary in 1845 and she (and later their children) came along with Livingstone on his early explorations. In 1849, he led a group of Europeans across the Kalahari Desert and discovered Lake Ngami. Two years later, he again traveled through the Kalahari with his family. In 1856, he traveled on the Zambezi River, and became the first European to see God’s natural wonder—Victoria Falls. He also became the first European to cross the entire width of southern Africa.
On May 1st 1873, Livingstone was found on his knees by his bedside, having died in prayer. Following with the African beliefs, Livingstone’s heart was buried under a Mvula tree near to the spot where he died; but his body had to be returned to Britain. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey in London on 18th April 1874 which was declared a day of national mourning.